"I'm sorry; I'll get one for you"

Jacob Wheeler is certainly learning how to work with Bassmaster media. He told Steve Bowman and myself this morning before take-off he was going to wail on em early.

We were happy about that prediction because we need to run around the lake today grabbing content for the blog and Bassmaster LIVE. We hoped to shoot an early photo gallery of Wheeler then go about our other duties.

Well it hasn't quite worked out that way. Wheeler is off to a slow start, weighing only two small fish in the first hour. And he's already apologized to us twice. "I'm sorry," he said. "I'll get em for you."

Not to worry brother. It's a humbling sport. As soon as you predict the fish' behavior you typically get proven wrong.

Palaniuk with No. 2

Brandon Palaniuk is taking his sweet time and catching fish in a hurry, if you get my drift. He just put his second in the boat - a 2-11, then re-tied, just as he did after his first catch of the day.

"First one of the day on the neko rig," he said.

Palaniuk's two main baits on deep brush piles have been a 5-inch green-pumpkin Zoom Magnum Finesse worm with a 1/32nd ounce neko weight and a plum 10-inch Zoom Ol' Monster worm with a 1/2-ounce weight on a Texas rig. The latter is what he caught his 4-2 first bass on.

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Lures of the Top 12

Photographer Garrick Dixon and myself got a head start on the Lures of the Top 12 story gallery to come in a couple days.

Going through the notes are these trivia nuggets.

Four of the Top 12 are keying on a bluegill spawn—not a shad spawn for a change—and they are doing so at various times of the morning. Frogs are the choice.

What else is notable are the types of coverage baits in play. Big plastic worms (Texas and Carolina rigged), jerkbaits, bladed jigs and heavy leadhead jigs. No crankbaits of any kind.

Most of the lures are what I’d refer to as mid-range coverage lures. That is an obvious choice for transitional bass moving from shallow back to deep water areas for summer. Signs of that transition are obvious with the big worms and heavy jigs chosen for targeting bass on the deep side of the post-spawn spectrum. The jerkbaits and topwaters are ideal for the bass in the shallow zone.

Wheeler's career stats

Jacob Wheeler starts Championship Sunday in fourth place with 61-3, which put him 10-13 back from Brandon Palaniuk in first place.

This morning Wheeler returned to the spot where he began Day 3, which is less than a mile from the ramp.

This is the 29th Bassmaster tournament for the 26-year-old Indianapolis, Indiana pro. He's finished in the money 21 times for $326,000 in prize money. Wheeler started with us at the 2011 Southern Open on Lake Norman. Since then he's won the first BASSfest in 2014 on Lake Chickaumaga, and Elite number 1 at Cherokee Lake. Interestingly enough, both of those lakes are in Tennessee.

He currently sits in third place in the Toyota Angler of the Year standings, tied with Jason Williamson.

So far today he's caught one bass, but it wasn't a keeper.

Palaniuk off to quick start

It took Brandon Palaniuk no time to get on the board in a big way - a 4-pound, 2-ounce bass landed at 7:13. Not bad after a 7 a.m. takeoff time.

He retied before making another cast into the brush pile he's mined all week.

Ehrler on the board

Brent Ehrler has arrived at his first fishing spot and has already caught one fish long enough to weigh! It wasn't a giant, but the day is just getting started! 

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Blog: Tuning up for some weather

As if the stacked up drama at the top of the scoreboard isn’t enough there is more on the radar. Most of those storms have passed but last night the area received some severe weather.. That included large hail, damaging wind and torrential rain. Whether or not that influences the bite is yet to come. Today calls for more intermittent rain but not as much severe weather. Stay tuned and we’ll find out.
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FIVE LIVE on Championship Sunday

Brandon Palaniuk has been steady throughout the first 3 days of this event. He started the event in 2nd with 24-7, backed it up with 23-2 on Day 2 and pulled ahead by 2 ounces because of his 24-7 bag on Day 3. Palaniuk has primarily fished off-shore. If you remember the epic photo gallery of his Day 3, his 24-7 bag could've been even bigger but losing a bonafide giant didn't help his cause. He seems to be on a school that has the big ones needed to possibly win this event. He is in a two-horse race with Brent Ehrler although anything can happen on Sam Rayburn for the other 10 anglers. He hasn't had the best signal for Bassmaster LIVE, but we do have camera's with him.

Brent Ehrler has been one of the stars on Bassmaster LIVE as we've watched his flurries with both a jerkbait and a vibrating jig. He has targeted what seems like the ditches where the hydrilla funnels to the back of the pockets. Earlier was the Day 1 and 2 leader and dropped back slightly because of Palaniuk's big Day 3. Keep in mind, Ehrler's Day 3 was 24-3 and he was overtaken by just 2 ounces so it's too close to call. His pattern has predominantly shallower this event than expected. He noted he didn't think he was on the winning fish necessarily, but a late-day 6 pounder on Day 3 helped him achieve a 24-pound bag.

Hank Cherry has possibly caught the most fish out of anyone in the field this week. The North Carolina angler is in the zone technique-wise as he has used a jerkbait efficiently. Fishing over and around the hydrilla on Sam Rayburn has helped Cherry dial in enough weight for 3rd place. He trails leader Brandon Palaniuk by 10 pounds, 4 ounces heading into Championship Sunday.

Jacob Wheeler only caught 16-5 on Day 3 and took a step back from being tight to the Top 2, but instead is now in 4th, 10-13 behind. Wheeler has fished shallow for the most part, flipping a jig into the brush and cover of Sam Rayburn. He has caught numerous fish in the morning as they have schooled in his area.

Jason Christie has relied solely on topwater this week as he has used numerous topwater frogs to get to 59-11 for 3 days. We've watched him on Bassmaster LIVE catch 4-pounders all week using a popping, walking and swimming frog thus far, but he hasn't been able to get above a 4 or 5 pounder so far. His weights have leveled out as 20-13, 18-5 and 20-9.

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HS All-American's morning surprise

As they prepared to drive to the airport and board a flight to Texas so their son, Tyler, could participate in the Bassmaster High School All-American tournament presented by DICK'S Sporting Goods, Cris and Debi Lubatt of Wheeling, Ill., received a shock.

"We opened the garage door early Friday morning, and saw that both our vehicles had been hit by a fallen tree," said Debi. Amazingly undaunted, the family quickly called a rid​esharing​ service, and made it to the airport with only minutes to spare. They were not about to miss an event Tyler was so eager to participate in. The Lubatt family is planning to return home Sunday morning, and deal with a massive tree that straddles their vehicles.

Asked whether the All-American event in Lufkin, Texas, was worth it all, Debi thought for a moment, and said yes.

Saturday festivities at Texas Fest

Live from Texas Fest! Toyota high school scholarship winners, Autism Trophy, Elite top five and High School All Americans. Watch by clicking HERE.

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